MORRIS – Larger, faster and more efficient: That’s what the Elburn Cooperative terminal hopes to be after it makes $10 million in capital improvements to its Morris facility.
The co-op already has built a larger storage bin, grain scale, main office, motor control center and parking lot as part of the expansion project.
Elburn terminal manager Jeff Neisler said the company is set to begin construction in June on two additional storage bins and faster shipping apparatuses, with hopes of having the entire project completed by harvest time in October.
The improvements will add about 340,000 bushels worth of storage and allow the terminal to load grain at a faster rate.
“We’re excited about investing in Morris. We’re adding storage and capabilities that will better serve those local customers,” Elburn Cooperative President and CEO John Husk said. “The city has been very receptive to what we’re trying to do.”
The Morris terminal is currently Elburn Cooperative’s only export location. All of the grain collected at Elburn’s many storage bins throughout the area is funneled through the Morris location before it is shipped to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Morris location exports roughly 120,000 bushels of corn per day via barges on the Illinois River and semitrailers.
Neisler said ever-rising export numbers were a major factor when the cooperative decided to expand.
From 2008 to 2014, the number of U.S. soybean exports has increased by about 400 million, according to United States Department of Agriculture data.
“We saw the export demand picking up substantially, especially in the last year or year and a half,” Neisler said.
About 90 percent of Elburn’s exports are transported through waterways, Neisler said. When the railroad companies diverted more rail transportation to hauling hydraulic fracturing sand and oil, Elburn Cooperative and other export companies using barges saw an increase in business, Neisler said.
That increase was another contributing factor in the terminal’s expansion.
“We’re getting more of the export business now because of rail logistics,” Neisler said. “That’s another factor we are looking at.”
Last year’s record flooding of the Illinois River also propelled the project along as the terminal’s previous office was almost submerged.
The new office was finished just this year and was built farther away from the river at more than 500 feet above sea level.
The terminal’s improvements will make the exporting and marketing process quicker for local farmers, Neisler said.
“We want the export market to be more accessible to local farmers,” he said. “This will speed up the whole process. [Farmers] can get their grain to market quicker and possibly move more grain than before.”